Introduce computing early and watch the interest grow

Nicola Goodey says early experimentation with computing can encourage pupils to choose computer science and business at GCSE

At Redden Court School, a specialist maths and computing academy, students are introduced to computing and business concepts from a young age in order to pique their interests early on and shine a light on hidden talent. 

For me, it’s really important to encourage all students to, at least, have a go at computing. There’s so much talent waiting to be uncovered and providing students with the right tools at the start of secondary school allows them to realise that there’s more to the subject than meets the eye.

Over the last three years I have been working alongside the whole of key stage three, introducing them to computing and business studies through the Apps for Good course. Students are given the opportunity to experiment with computing through a strategic and creative process, challenging them to consider a societal issue, and devise a solution through the creation of an app. 

Computing is occasionally regarded as an intricate subject, one not often introduced until GCSE level. However, it’s important to introduce elements of the subject earlier on to show students the purpose of computing and how it can be applied in the real world. I have found that introducing our year seven students to ICT, business studies and computing concepts as well as new software, encourages them to experiment and collaborate with peers, building transferable skills and expertise for a number of different subjects.

A key stage three display at Redden Court School

The students have developed a vast skill set, including strong communication and presentation skills, team-building, problem-solving, organisation and software skills through Balsamiq, Photoshop, Google Drive, Appshed and more.

Giving students the freedom and creativity to develop their own ideas and encouraging them to work out solutions to real world challenges, provides them with real ownership that boosts their confidence and gives them insight into the roles they may play within a real business in the working world. 

Implementing a course that incorporates computing concepts, along with other subject areas such as marketing and business, gets them really excited. When I first explain the project to the students, I tell them there is the possibility of entering a national competition and having their app ideas professionally developed if they win. This gives them the incentive to create a solid idea that they believe will work. We have displays all around the school showing previous group ideas; these entice new students into learning more and remind existing students of the great work that has been done. 

I find that the students particularly enjoy interacting with one another, speaking with industry experts from around the world and other classes to develop their skills and build strong concepts. Assigning student groups allows them to develop new friendships, which is important in the real world as they won’t always be able to choose who they work with. I’ve found this also improves their communication and presentation skills. 

Several of our students have really impressed and surprised me. Those with lower literacy levels created some really excellent app concepts and some impressive prototype designs, which we wouldn’t necessarily have expected. The good thing about courses like Apps for Good, is that students can get involved in a wide variety of roles that, may not fall inside their comfort zones, meaning they can experiment and challenge themselves. For example, some of our shyer students took the opportunity to push themselves and present their ideas to the class before featuring in their video pitch. We also encourage students to create a marketing campaign for their apps using Photoshop software and use celebrity endorsement, so their apps stand out from the competition. 

As well as developing their ICT and computing skills, I was particularly pleased with our year seven students who produced some outstanding logos, prototypes and marketing examples – some to GCSE standard. So much so in fact, that we have now placed a number of students on our subject gifted and talented lists.

The students at Redden Court have grown in their confidence, and since extending the introduction of these subjects to the younger students, we have seen a tremendous increase in students choosing computer science and business studies as GCSE options. The skills they have learnt in the subject and throughout the course, such as teamwork, creativity and presenting, are all important expertise that can then be applied across other lessons, subject areas and in careers far beyond their educational journeys.

Nicola Goodey is ICT, computing and business studies teacher at Redden Court School.